From the moment we take our first tottering steps in Mommy’s high heels, women are obsessed with accessories. Even in a sluggish economy, sales of shoes, handbags, jewelry and other accents remain strong. When the going gets tough, the tough accessorize. Luckily, there’s plenty to choose from this fall.
“Accessories are like little treasures—and they’re relatively inexpensive,” says Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing. “They give new life to last season’s outfit.” The latest accessories complement fall’s major runway trends: menswear tailoring and the return of the dress. “What better way to accessorize a tailored suit or soft dress than with ladylike pearls?” he asks. But we’re not talking about your grandmother’s single strand. “We’re seeing ropes and ropes of pearls—all sizes and colors layered together, real mixed with fake. They add a lovely, romantic glow to fall’s neutral palette.”
Shoes with kitten heels are back, too. “A smaller heel is practical, but still chic,” Downing says. “Even Manolo Blahnik and Christian Louboutin are showing lower heels.” Boots are still big for fall and winter, he notes. “Neiman is carrying everything from rubber wellies by Hunter, which you’ll want to wear rain or shine, to glamorous looks by Valentino and Chanel.”
Put away your hobo bag, Downing advises. “The season’s ladylike fashions call for a structured handbag, preferably something with a handle,” he says. “Slouchy bags don’t work with tailored clothes—you need something with a little architecture to echo the defined waistline and bosom shown at Prada and Dior.”
“Accessories are a quick fix when you want to change your look or attitude, and they allow you to reinvent your basic wardrobe,” says Jerry Talamantes, director of events and public relations at Dillard’s. They’re also a great escape when you’re facing a challenge or having a bad day, he adds. “When you’re nervous about that big job interview, a terrific bag or the right watch can boost your confidence,” he says. “And there’s nothing like a fabulous pair of shoes or a colorful bracelet to lift your spirits and make you feel on top of the world.”
Accessories are created to romance clothes, Talamantes says. “A little black dress can take you from work to the most elegant restaurant in town if you change your shoes, add a metallic clutch, and replace a textured scarf with a statement necklace,” he notes.
Dillard’s is focusing on two main trends for fall and winter, Talamantes reports. “Along with the reinvention of American classic dressing, we’re also seeing an ‘into the wild’ theme, with lots of bold, mixed prints, textured fabrics and fur trim. Strappy or chunky booties and bags with plenty of blingy hardware finish the look perfectly.”
“Accessories give a woman the opportunity to make an outfit uniquely her own,” says Gregg Andrews, a fashion director at Nordstrom. “They add functionality to your wardrobe but still let you express your unique style. The same dress can look completely different on four women, depending on how they choose to accessorize.”
This is the season to build an entire wardrobe around boots of all lengths and heel heights, Andrews says. “The newest look is over-the-knee, whether it’s a flat, wedge or sky-high heel,” he says. When it comes to shoes, platform soles and straps still rule, but there is also a trend toward a sleeker look: “We’re seeing demure details, like kitten heels and dainty bows,” he reports. Jewelry is in the spotlight this fall, with statement bracelets coming on strong. “A single wide cuff or a couple of oversized bangles can really make an outfit.” Large cocktail rings glittered on the runway. “There’s something inherently glamorous about them,” he says.
Scarves continue their fashion reign in muted neutrals such as ivory, gray and camel. “Updated, more subtle Fair Isle patterns are new right now,” Andrews says. And shoes, belts, bags and scarves in animal prints are stronger than ever, he confirms. “They never go out of style—they look great with neutrals and colors. But please, no more than one faux leopard or cheetah item per outfit. Remember, fall and winter are all about pared-down classicism.”